All about cycling in the Netherlands
Bicycle parking facilities are not always the most attractive buildings, but there is a very interesting exception in the town of Alphen aan den Rijn: the Fietsappel or Bicycle Apple. This bike parking facility has the shape and the colour of a huge apple and in it you can find racks to park a little under a 1,000 bicycles.
Alphen aan den Rijn is a town in the west of the Netherlands with a current population of almost 73,000 (107,000 in the entire municipality). The station has an intercity service to Leiden and Utrecht and local trains in the direction of Gouda. The Bicycle Apple was built at the railway station when the municipality redeveloped that entire station area from 2007 to 2010. The station area also has two other bicycle parking facilities for almost 2,000 bicycles (1,300 of which are in a paid facility). So in total almost 3,000 bicycles can be parked at the station. This huge number for a relatively small town underlines how common it is to combine modes of transport (in this case bicycle/train) in the Netherlands.
The interesting building is a steel construction, built right next to the new tunnel under the rail road tracks that is for pedestrians and cycling only. The main floor is a ramp that spirals 3 and a half times around a cone-shaped open core. The total height of the building is 16 metres and the diameter is 27 metres. To really make it look like an apple the top features a wind-vane in the shape of a stem with one leaf. The bikes are parked in racks on either side of the spiral ramp and these racks were especially designed for this building. The ramp can be accessed by bicycle at the bottom from the tunnel level and one floor higher from street level. To quickly get to and from your bicycle on foot, there are two stairs in the open core that provide a short cut.
Even though the basic apple shape looks very simple, the spiraling ramp with the open core makes the total structure of the building extremely complex. Every detail is different. So steel was the logical choice of material. It is such a complicated design that the entire steel frame was completely constructed on the site of the steel factory as a trial, to see if all the elements were constructed in the right way. The producer published two time lapses on its Dutch website: one of the trial construction and one of the actual construction on the final location.
That final construction took place in 2009 and 2010 and the total building costs were 2.53 million euro. The bicycle parking facility was opened on the 18th of August 2010. You can park your bicycle free of charge, but the bikes are not guarded, it is an unmanned facility.
The innovative design and the complex structure did not remain unnoticed and in 2012 the Bicycle Apple won the Dutch Steel Award. The jury report was very positive.
This is an attractive and functional design, refined in every detail. It is beautifully executed, especially when you consider the modest budget. The design of this building, the choice of material and the colour emphasize the green aspect of cycling and public transport. The steel beams and the façade of transparent wire netting (with cheerful decorations) give the building an open and inviting character. This bicycle parking facility clearly shows it was designed with love and care. Steel was used as it should be: fresh and lean.
My video. I love the way it looks when people walk to and from their bicycles and ride up and down the Apple’s circular ramp (which by the way is prohibited, but everybody rides anyway).
So that must make everybody happy and proud! Well, not quite… Even before the Apple was constructed the local branch of the Cyclists’ Union warned that the capacity would not be sufficient. Their own ongoing counts show they were unfortunately right. In September 2013 the volunteers counted 1,267 parked bicycles in and around the 970 racks. So the facility was filled up by 130.6%!
The municipality tries to keep things tidy by removing the bicycles which are not correctly parked in a rack. At first this was done once every 8 weeks, but since 2014 this had to be increased to three times per week! Making clear that an expansion of the bicycle parking facilities is really needed. The municipality is investigating if a new –standard– parking facility can be built right next to the Apple, in which another 400 bicycles can be parked.